One of those rare occasions when journalism crosses the threshold of art.




The Crescent City beyond Bourbon Street.

When people think of New Orleans, the first thing that comes to mind is usually Hurricane Katrina, likely followed by Mardi Gras, jazz and nightlife. Baum (Citizen Coors, 2000, etc) demonstrates that there’s much more. Expanding on the series he penned for the New Yorker amidst the maelstrom of 2005, the author captures the soul of this city with a unique cultural identity that continues to persevere against chaos, the elements and the odds. He plunges into New Orleans’ living arteries and pulsing heart, exposing its deepest aspects as well as its eccentricities. He gives the historic city a human face by exploring nine lives, including those of a coroner, a cop, an artist and a transsexual bartender. We learn about their upbringings, fears, hopes and the different ways they see the world. New Orleans has a complicated class structure, and the author ranges across its social spectrum, its precincts and wards, its gender and race lines. He begins in the mid-1960s, when many of his subjects came of age during Hurricane Betsy. Short vignettes about each, captured in their own words as well as Baum’s descriptions, take us through the years leading to Katrina, revealing a city in the throes of change. Employing appropriately florid prose and a novelistic approach to narrative, Baum masterfully conveys sympathy, compassion and, most importantly, a critical understanding of an oft-misunderstood city that stands as an important pocket of American culture.

One of those rare occasions when journalism crosses the threshold of art.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-385-52319-6

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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